Wine Questionary:

Longevity of wine?

How to choose a wine that will last for 20 or 25 years, as a long-range plan to celebrate the 21st birthday of a newborn child or the silver anniversary of a newlywed couple? This is one of the wine questions I hear most often; but unfortunately, it doesn't have an easy answer.

The vast majority of the world's wines are meant for immediate consumption, not for aging; and most of the rare beauties that will hold out for 25 years require specialized storage at a constant 55F (13C) -- too cold for air conditioning but too warm for a refrigerator -- in order to show their best after all that time.

Luckily, however, one relatively affordable wine is almost indestructible: Madeira. This strong wine, fortified with brandy, was developed to survive, and even improve, during long ocean voyages from its island source off North Africa to thirsty markets in East India and the New World. Strong and warming, Madeira ranges from dry to very sweet, with burnt-sugar, earthy and caramel flavors, always with a firm, even steely acidity; and it will almost literally last forever, even under very poor storage conditions. What's more, Madeira remains surprisingly affordable for an ageworthy wine, generally ranging from $20 to $35 for a recently produced bottle sold in the U.S.

So if you're looking for a wine to hold for a celebration in the distant future and you don't own a wine "cellar," you can hardly do better than a Madeira for a wine that's likely to last.

For more information on this subject, see these Questionary features:

Back to list of questions